At the beginning of February each year, the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, known as the Sapporo Snow Festival, occurs. Although other snow festivals take place in Japan, the one in the island’s capital of Hokkaido is the largest.
Why people observe Sapporo Snow Festival
It was encouraging the people of Sapporo, in the postwar period, a time when food was scarce and when the war had left behind previous winter celebrations. There were dog races, dances, and a theater contest in its first version, thus receiving more than 50,000 spectators. Due to its success in its second edition, it became an official celebration. Since the sixth edition of the festival in 1955, the Japanese armed forces have been actively involved in making large-scale snow sculptures.
Five years later, soldiers from the Self-Defense Forces from a nearby base joined the students and built a lot of snow sculptures and from there, the event became a tradition and gained popularity, becoming what it is today. Day one of the winter festivals with more national and international recognition, known for the spectacularity of its snow and ice sculptures, some of which can reach 15 meters in height. Since 1974 the international Snow Sculpture competition has been held where members from different countries of the world such as the United States, South Korea, and France participate. In 2013, the world’s first snow video mapping was presented with such success that it is still used in the new versions of the festival.
The Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo Yuki-matsuri) is held annually in February, lasting one week (February 5-11). It stands out for its spectacular ice sculptures that can reach dimensions such as 25 meters wide and 15 meters high. Also having several musical presentations, gastronomic fairs and other types of events. Tourists describe the experience as something fantastic and festive. In 2014, 2,400,000 visitors attended.
Odori Park is the most popular of the three scenarios because the largest number of sculptures are exhibited there, and the International Ice Sculpture Contest is held at this venue. In Susukini, there is a beauty contest called “Susuki Queen of Ice,” where you can see especially the ice carving and great night activity. And finally, in Sapporo Satoland you can see sports competitions.
History and origin
Previously, snow festivals were held, but they were all canceled because of the Second World War. That is why the festival that we know today is relatively recent and began to be held in 1950 when both students and later the self-defense forces began to build snow sculptures. Since then, this festival has not stopped becoming popular and growing, attracting more and more visitors each year. Currently, more than two million people visit the festival each year.
Today, not only can you see snow sculptures up to 15 meters high, but there is also a sculpture contest in which different countries participate.
The festival takes place in three locations in the city – Odori Park, the Susukino area, and Tsu Dome.
- Odori Park – this park is where the main focus of the festival is located. In this park, we can see approximately 1.5 km the largest and most spectacular snow sculptures in this park. Some of them have projections above the same figures recreating scenes from movies or video games. Like any festival, in Odori Park, we can also find many food stops.
- Susukino – On the main street in Sapporo’s liveliest neighborhood, you can find several sculptures made of ice that can also be seen illuminated at night.
- Tsu Dome – it is the area furthest from the city center, but that is precisely what makes it ideal for having snow slides where you can slide. It is very common to meet families with children so that the little ones can also have fun. This area usually opens about 5 days before the rest of the festival.
Additional information and access to Sapporo
The next Yuki Matsuri will be held from February 4 to 11, 2022. From Tokyo, you can go to Sapporo in a short time by internal flights, but for those who are more daring and do not mind the travel time, you can also get there by shinkansen to Hakodate and then to Sapporo in a total of about 8 hours of travel.
You may also like to read, What do I wear to go to a cold day event?